What do the clubs say they stand for?
Gold Coast Suns
North Melbourne Kangaroos
Port Adelaide Power
St Kilda Saints
West Coast Eagles
American Sports in Australia
For its first 150 years, Australia was subjected to two major international influences. The primary influence was Britain, the mother country and the political masters. The second was America, the aspirational country.
The influence of the two powers was reflected in two main aspects of Australian life. One was in politics where the system was created by the British, but the Australian Labor party intentionally used the American spelling in order to associate itself with the progressive ideals of America, and distance itself from the conservative ideals of Britain. The second was in sport, where British sports like rugby league, rugby union, cricket and soccer were generally the most popular, but American sports rose and fell in popularity as a kind of barometer of American Australia relations.
It was the late 1980s and 90s where American sports seemed to reach the peak of their popularity, which perhaps can be partly attributed to Paul Hogan’s Crocodile Dundee (1986). It is widely believed that Crocodile Dundee promoted Australia in America but arguably it also promoted America to Australia. Aside from showing American landscapes, Crocodile Dundee also exposed Australians to the concept of the American dream. Specifically, Paul Hogan’s personal story of success in America made him a role model for many Australians and budding fashion designers, actors, writers, directors, and sportsmen all wanted to follow in his footsteps. American sports provided a pathway for the sportsmen and they received a popularity boost as the Australian media profiled Australian athletes living the American dream in baseball, football and basketball.
Both test cricket and baseball move about as fast as a Jamaican on valium. This makes them ideal for hot climates where fans want an excuse to sit around drinking beer and avoiding anything too mentally strenuous. Both sports were introduced to Australia in the 1850s, but whereas cricket has thrived, baseball has struggled.
In its early years, baseball had a reasonable following. Leagues were established in most capital cities and press coverage was positive. It's American image; however, was both a strength and weakness. On one hand, it could trade off the good image of America for its popularity. On the other hand, it potentially undermined Australian patriotism because playing baseball was a celebration of America. (Technically, cricket was also a foreign sport but because many Australians identified themselves as British it was seen as an expression of their identity.) In addition, cricket had a culture of playing international matches, and these matches allowed Australians to feel pride as Australians when they played the British. Baseball lacked the same international playing culture.
To avoid direct competition with cricket and allow potential athletes to play both sports, baseball became a winter league. For numerous reasons, it was perhaps the wrong move. Firstly, it put baseball in direct competition with the football codes, which arguably had more passionate followings than cricket. Reflecting this rivalry, some media recorded conflicts between baseball fans and football fans as they ventured to watch their respective sports. Secondly, baseball is too slow to watch in cold weather.
In the 80s, baseball made an assertive move by becoming a summertime sport, and creating a national league. It filled a gap in the summer Australian market, which lacked a tribal based domestic competition. As the mood of the time was very pro-US, baseball was able to position itself as the trendiest game on the block. Baseball caps were all the rage, advertisers showed kids in baseball attire, and it was cool to have commentators use words like "offence" and "defence" for a non-contact sport. In the 93/94 season, the Australian Baseball League seemed on the verge of over-taking cricket. Average attendance was nearly 4,000, total attendance reached 500,000 and more than one million persons watched baseball on television. From a spectator point of view, these figures showed that domestic baseball was more popular than domestic cricket.
Cricket reacted with some implementation of some tribal based marketing concepts of its own. Firstly, state teams were given monikers, such as Bulls, Tigers and Bushrangers, which they hadn’t had never had before. Secondly, they organised some domestic one-day competitions, which were broadcast on commercial television. Thirdly, they organised a few cross-sports promotions with the football codes that involved legends of the football codes playing charity cricket games. Not only did the football legends promote cricket, they also made some derisive comments about baseball. Less than five years later, the ABL had collapsed.
While Australian baseball is irrelevant from a spectator point of view, it still has some potential. In 2003, there were roughly 57,000 Australians playing baseball in around 5000 teams. These teams produced the players that defeated Cuba at the 1999 Intercontinental Cup, and won the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Despite the high playing numbers, it is unlikely that a national league would ever succeed. Since its move to summer, baseball has been followed by soccer and basketball, which have also tried to fill that niche of a tribal based domestic league. The invention of 20/20 has also given cricket an opportunity to create a league run along the format of a football competition. In short, competition is too great.
Rugby league legend Fatty Vautin's classic catch in cricket. A very effective example of cross-industry promotion.
Like it was for baseball, the 90s were very good for basketball. It was one of the most watched sports on TV, had a very successful national league, and was very popular amongst young people. Many basketball fans even felt their game was in a position to challenge Australian football for the title of Australia's most popular sport. Today, basketball is not on TV and many of the teams have gone bankrupt. Media, corporate and spectator interest is low.
One of the main reasons for its demise was the introduction of pay-TV to Australia in the mid 1990s. This allowed NBA games to be shown in Australia, and they made Australian basketball seem diminutive by comparison. Another problem was that its image was tied to America and as America fell out of fashion, so did basketball. Finally, basketball probably suffered due to comparisons to Australian football. In some respects, basketball is like an indoor version of football, except that it lacks the physical component, and unpredictability.
Today, basketball still has high playing numbers but the commercial prospects of basketball clubs are limited.
Australia's first organized gridiron teams were established in 1984. By 1995, gridiron was being played in every Australian state and territory by approximately 100 teams.
Although gridiron is basically a non-entity in Australia, arguably, Australia is one of the few countries that would be capable of producing a sufficient number of players with the size and temperament to be able to provide competition to America in gridiron. With kickers and receivers from Australian football, and rugby players providing the grunt in defence and offence, a reasonable team could be put together with a few rule modifications to even the contest.
Psychologically, the prospect of defeating Americans at their own game would appeal to many Australians. If given the chance to play against the best that America had, many sports minded Australians would be prepared to put up with decades of humiliation in the path to ultimate victory. Not many other countries in the world have the underdog mentality that would suffer loss after loss in the aim of knocking off a top dog.
Even though America could potentially make a strong foe out of Australia if it invested enough money, it is unlikely to do so. Americans don't have the same desire for international competition as do Australians. Furthermore, American sports administrators are more concerned about making money than growing their game. They want the world to watch their domestic competitions. They don't want their best to be challenged by the world.
Comparison of the Rugby codes and NFL
Comparison of the Rugby codes and NFL
AFL convert Sav Rocca in NFL
Activity 1 - Would it be possible to have an NFL, NBA or ABL team in Sydney or Brisbane?
Australia is a relatively small and saturated sporting market; however, if one of the American leagues established a team in Sydney or Brisbane, it would be able to play games in the Asian time zone, which potentially could add billions to the value of its television rights. Furthermore, it is far easier for Asians to get on a plane and watch an American team being planned in their own time zone than it is to cross time zones.
Activity 2 - Why American names?
American sports have little spectator appeal in Australia; however, the names of American sporting clubs have been copied when creating new teams in Australia’s football codes. Some examples include Broncos, Cowboys, Suns, Titans, Giants, Raiders, Steelers. The choice of Broncos and Cowboys is particularly salient considering that the Australian English has equivalent words of Brumbies and Stockmen, which were overlooked.
Rank the following from best to worst explanation for why the American name was chosen